I’ve been making websites and blogging on & off for 8 years or so now (Geocities, Frontpage, splash pages, LiveJournal, anyone?!) and while I may not have the most hits out there, I’ve certainly been doing this long enough to know the difference between (in my opinion) good and bad, and the tools that are out there to help.
Quality content is key. It’s not down to me or anyone else to tell you what you should or shouldn’t write— yes, “My Week In Instagram Photos” or “Glossybox reviews” may have been done over & over again, but they also prove to be hugely popular— but just think, if you’re writing the same thing as everyone else, is that really what you want?! People might not stick around for long if they’ve read the same review elsewhere, a million times already. Find your niche and stick with it— but at the same time, don’t be scared to write about other subjects if you want to, either. My posts about being a mum, aren’t necessarily interesting to those who come here for photography or beauty-related posts, but it keeps a larger percentage of people happy and I enjoy writing about them all, equally. If I can repeat the old adage, “Write about what you want to! Blog for you!” We all go through a period of writers block, but if you don’t have anything to write about at all, then perhaps blogging is not for you.
Here’s the deal. A lot of people don’t like sponsored or featured posts. I’m not too bothered myself— it’s nice to get something back from all the hardwork that bloggers put in and as a reader, if the subject doesn’t interest you, you can easily skip to something you do like. However, if your blog is littered with them, it’s hard to find anything else. Like a needle in a haystack! Try and keep things relevant and tailor it to your blog and readers, so it’s interesting. It’s also best to have some kind of disclaimer (so that your followers don’t feel betrayed!) If you’re contacted by a PR company about something that isn’t suitable for your blog, but you know someone who would love it, refer them to your friend! Hayley and Sarah do this a lot, which is lovely of them. It’s one big, friendly community, after all!
If you haven’t got Google Analytics yet, then GET IT. Seriously. You can see exactly where your readers have come from, when they’re reading and what they’re reading, among other things. It’s a really useful tool to help you write about the things your readers want to see.
You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover and you probably shouldn’t judge a blog by it’s design— except, we all do. Most people will read blogs through an RSS reader, so you can argue that the design of your blog doesn’t really matter, but it’s all about first impressions. If I visit a blog for the first time and it’s hard to read or there’s a big, ugly font, it puts me off and I’m unlikely to read more posts and subscribe. There are lots of free themes out there and Google is your friend, when it comes to learning about HTML and CSS. I’m completely self-taught! You can also get a great layout for a small fee, from webdesigners that design specifically for blogs, like Gillian.
It might seem a bit excessive, but a diary will really help you to plan your blog posts. I use mine to write ideas when I’m away from the computer, scribble to do lists and at a glance I can see what posts I need to write, when they’re going up and the type of posts I’ve written that week. I thought I had writers block, but since using a diary, I’ve got more ideas than ever and I’m able to schedule a lot of posts in one go, rather than writing every single day.
I can only speak for WordPress, but there are some great plugins out there. My top 5 are: Ajax Comments-Reply (reply to your readers comments and send them an email notification); Akismet (protect your blog from spam); nrelate Related Content (automatically display related content at the end of each post); SEO Smart Links (specify keywords to be linked to certain posts / websites and it’ll do it automatically every time you type them) and WordPress Editorial Calendar (your posts at a glance.) You can install any of these automatically by searching for them under the plugin menu on your dashboard.
I’m sure you already have a Twitter account, but if you don’t, sign up now! Twitter is brilliant for interacting with your readers and discovering new blogs. Make sure you have some social media buttons or links on your blog too, so your readers can follow you on Twitter, YouTube & the like! Focusing on the amount of ‘followers’ you have isn’t healthy in my opinion, but Google Friend Connect and Bloglovin’ are great tools to use if you want to know. Also make sure you have a button that links directly to your RSS feed, so people can subscribe easily.
I’m really nosy and love reading ‘about’ pages, i.e. more info about the blogger. If I find that I have something in common with them, I’m more likely to stick around and read more.
Yes, ultimately you should enjoy blogging! If you’re getting into it because you’ve seen your favourite blogger go from rags to riches and want to replicate it, want free stuff or want to be paid to write straight away, then quit while you’re ahead— a lot of work goes into blogging and you won’t see overnight success! However, if you’ve got a message to spread, love writing and want to be part of a great community, then jump right in!